ANKARA (Reuters) - An explosion from a suspected car bomb ripped through a street in the Turkish capital Ankara on Tuesday near a neighborhood housing government buildings, killing three people and wounding 15, Interior Minister Naim Sahin said.
The blast struck the central Kizilay neighborhood less than a kilometer from the prime minister's office, the headquarters of the chief of general staff and several ministries.
Sahin said a parked car had exploded, setting off a chain of blasts as other vehicles blew up on a busy street. The vehicles, like many in Turkey, were powered by liquefied petroleum gas, making them more likely to explode, he said.
"It is highly probable that it's a terror attack," he said. "The explosion took place in a parked car, and was followed by explosions of other cars because they had LPG."
President Abdullah Gul, visiting Germany, condemned what he said was a terrorist attack.
"Those who have had no share of humanity carried out a terror attack against civilians in Ankara. We have fatalities. I send them my condolences and with hatred condemn the terror," Gul said, according to state-run Anatolian news agency.
A plume of thick smoke rose above the heart of the city after the blast. Reuters reporters at the scene said a line of parked vehicles had been destroyed and an adjacent row of shops was damaged, across the street from a primary school.
Ambulances and fire engines rushed to the scene and police set up a security cordon while bomb disposal teams' sniffer dogs searched for any possible secondary device.
Sahin said the three people who were killed had been in nearby buildings. Of the 15 people who were wounded, five were in a critical condition.
"Kumrular street is a busy place in terms of human and vehicle traffic. It's seen that the explosion mainly targeted people," he said.
Kurdish separatists, leftists and Islamist militants have carried out bomb attacks in Turkish cities in the past.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was in the United States and was due to hold talks with President Barack Obama later in the day.
Writing by Daren Butler and Simon Cameron-Moore; Editing by Peter Graff